Author(s): Dan Immergluck
The problem of distressed vacant properties and the blight that accompanies them has been a continual concern in community development and neighborhood planning. The roots of vacancy and abandonment at the neighborhood level have ranged from declining employment and population to metropolitan sprawl, to – especially recently – subprime lending and its accompanying foreclosures.
Vacant properties – especially those in poor condition – have negative impacts on neighborhoods and cities. For example, a variety of studies have found negative spillover impacts of vacant and/or abandoned homes on neighboring property values. In a study of Columbus, Ohio, Mikelbank (2008) found that vacant properties reduced the price of nearby homes by more than $4,000. In a similar study of Flint, Michigan, Griswold and Norris (2007) determined that each vacant structure within 500 feet a home reduced the home value by over 2 percent. In a study of Baltimore, Han (2014) also found that vacant homes had a negative effect on nearby property values. Vacant properties are also associated with higher crime rates. Cui (2010) analyzed crime and foreclosure data in Pittsburgh and found that violent crimes within 250 feet of a foreclosed home increased by more than 15 percent once the foreclosed home became vacant, with similar effects on property crime. Branas, Rubin, and Guo (2012) found that vacant property is among the strongest predictors of assault among a dozen demographic and socioeconomic variables.
The negative effects of vacant properties tend to take two general forms. First, vacant properties, especially those in poor condition, impose direct service costs on code enforcement units, police departments, fire departments, court systems, and other governmental agencies. Second, vacant properties – especially poorly maintained ones – can impose negative “spillover” costs on nearby neighborhoods, including lower property values and higher crime rates. In this analysis, the author formulates conservative measures of some of the chief costs imposed by vacant properties in the City of Atlanta.